This is my first ever fan-fic, beautifully and kindly beta'd by Keladry Lupin and Little Beloved – Pulsars in the SSHG firmament, all errors are wholly and entirely mine, anything you recognize belongs to Miss Austen.
If his liturgical career had never really shone brightly, there were those who knew him who might have fancied that his true talents lay in unabashed and practiced sycophancy. It was perhaps most fitting that his death came as a result of an act of unparalleled obsequiousness. On a bitter January morning in 1809 Mr Collins; with no thought for his own health, nor the position of his wife Charlotte were he to drown, jumped feet first into the ornamental lake at Rosings Park in pursuit of Miss Anne De Burgh's pince-nez which had not a moment before been carried away from her by a gust of wind. He emerged from the icy water after a minute or so, clutching the broken remains of the glasses, it appeared he had been unfortunate enough to land upon them when entering the water.
Charlotte had been extremely startled to greet her sodden husband on the doorstep some 45 minutes later. Although she did her utmost to warm him and tend to him, it was too late to prevent the fever which eventually carried him off from taking hold - if only he hadn't insisted on walking Miss De Burgh back to her mother, something might have been done. However it was not to be.
Mr Collins was dead.
His death left Charlotte in a very awkward position; Lady Catherine would soon be wanting the rectory to house the new parson and his family. Charlotte had nowhere to live - in the seven years since she had married, she had lost both beloved parents; her sister Maria (who had married an officer and was living in Spain) and Lucas Lodge, which was now in the possession of her brother Robert, his wife and their ever expanding brood, she could not possibly encumber him with the responsibility of supporting her too. Had she just had herself to think of, she might have considered becoming a governess or lady's companion, but she had her son William and daughter Anne to think of. Anne was not yet five and William just turned three; she loved them both so dearly and could not bear the thought of being parted from them for a night, much less year in year out.
Thank goodness for Lizzy.
Elizabeth and Mr Darcy's marriage was a happy one. Of course there were squabbles and misunderstandings on occasion, but on the whole it was very successful. Since the birth of their first child - a daughter named Emily for Elizabeth's aunt Gardner, who had been so instrumental in bringing them together- Lizzy had withdrawn from the life of balls and routs that had peppered her entry into high society. She now preferred the quiet existence that she had carved out for herself and Mr. Darcy at Pemberly, where they were surrounded by good, devoted friends and loyal servants. Darcy himself cared little for town life now and was rarely drawn to London unless it was to vote in the House or to see his man of business.
The estrangement between Mr Darcy and his aunt at the time of their marriage had been resolved for some years now, and it was in fact her letter that informed them first of Mr Collins' untimely demise. Lady Catherine had never been a woman prone to sympathy, although she demanded it from others - and much of her letter was taken up with complaints about the exertions she had been put to in her search for a new parson and how utterly like Mr Collins it was to catch cold and die just when The Season was beginning – the loss of Mr Darcy as a prospective son-in-law had drawn her from Huntsford to London in pursuit of a likely replacement.
Upon reading Lady Catherine's letter, Lizzy immediately perceived that dear Charlotte would very soon be in want of a home and in no time at all persuaded her husband that bringing Charlotte to Pemberley would be most advantageous. Whilst Mr Collins lived, Mr Darcy had often found it necessary to visit London on matters of urgent business during the Collins' visits to Pemberley, but he had not forgotten the quiet sensible woman whom he had met in Meryton some eight years ago. He knew from long conversations with Elizabeth that in all essentials, Mrs Collins was unchanged and as such her arrival held no dread for him.
A letter expressing all that was proper on the occasion of Mr Collins' death was dispatched to Huntsford, and in the course of three more letters, Charlotte was invited and then persuaded to come to Pemberly indefinitely.
In the event, the matter of transporting Charlotte and her two children to Pemberley proved more difficult than had been originally thought. Lady Catherine insisted that Charlotte stay until August, so that she might ensure that the parsonage was in order for its new residents; Lady Catherine would be in London and unable to oversee their installation. The problem lay in the fact that August was the final month of Lizzy's, confinement and Darcy was extremely unwilling to be parted from her at this time. After much debate and pondering, it was Colonel Fitzwilliam who solved the matter by kindly volunteering to go down to Rosings Park and escort Mrs Collins back to Pemberley.